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Boys hockey tournament begins Monday and Sean Baligian makes his bold predictions, and suggestions

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Ready or not here are Sean Baligian’s not-so-fearless predictions for the 41st state hockey tournament.

 

The depth and caliber of high school hockey is no longer a secret. That’s why embarking on a prediction piece such as this is incredibly daunting. The quality of the players and teams, and the number of quality teams, is at an all-time high as everybody across the state begins a journey that they hope ends in Plymouth at Compuware Arena for the tournament semifinals and finals March 12-14.

 

The amount of teams capable of navigating the dangerous icy waters of pre-regionals and regional finals is large, and that is great for the game that we’ve come to appreciate at this level. 

 

With those truths being stated, perhaps it is time for the Michigan High School Athletic Association and coaches to think about seeding, whether it be at the regional or quarterfinal level.

 

It is understood that it would be difficult to ask a team to travel many hours for a pre-regional or even regional final, but a common sense approach, and modification of the various rankings used throughout the state could figure that out. The question is: Do we want to see the best teams earn their way to Compuware, or the best teams based on regions earn their way? That is a question the MHSAA and the coaches must ask themselves, and embark on a course to discuss, as this game continues the upward trend it has shown in recent years. 

 

Division I 

 

Region 1 Winner Grandville over Region 2 Winner Traverse City West.

 

Region 4 Winner Bay City Central over Region 3 Winner Jackson.

 

Region 6 Winner Detroit Catholic Central over Region 5 Winner Rochester United.

 

Region 8 Winner U-D Jesuit over Region 7 winner Northville. Region 7 has arguably five of the top ten teams in Division I in the state. It shouldn’t shock anyone if perhaps any one of the top four ended up winning the region. A Northville/Brighton final would be epic, and the first goal might win it the way that Chance Boutin is playing goal for Northville and Jimmy Milletics is playing goal for the Bulldogs.

 

Final Four

 

Catholic Central over U-D

 

Grandville over Bay City Central.

 

This sets up a rematch of the 2014 semi-final game from 2014 and the Shamrocks have already knocked off the Bulldogs this season. I expect history to repeat itself in the final and look for the Shamrocks to win it all again.

 

Division II

 

Region 9 Winner Marquette over Region 10 winner Traverse City Central

 

Region 12 Winner Brother Rice over Region 11 winner Hartland. This one might be the "can't miss" game of the D2 tournament.

 

Region 13 Winner Romeo over Region 14 Winner Grosse Pointe South. Some may call this an upset, but Romeo is the real deal.

 

Region 15 Winner Livonia Stevenson over Region 16 Winner Novi. Another game that might earn the title of "instant classic".

 

Final Four

 

Livonia Stevenson over Marquette

 

Brother Rice over Romeo

 

Brother Rice has been the class of this Division, and arguably the State, for a while now. The Spartans have improved dramatically as the season has progressed but, in the end, look for the Warriors to finish the season as they started the season, with a win over Stevenson.

 

Division III

 

Region 17 Winner Houghton over Region 18 winner Sault Ste. Marie

 

Region 19 Winner Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central over Region 20 Winner Flint Powers

 

It’s a shame that two of the best teams in the state find themselves in Region 19 with state powers Forest Hills Central and Grand Rapids Catholic Central vying for the title. 

 

Region 22 Winner Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood over Region 21 Winner Wyandotte Roosevelt.

 

Region 23 Winner Riverview over Region 24 Winner Chelsea.

 

Final Four

 

Cranbrook Kingswood over Riverview

 

Forest Hills Central over Houghton

 

If the Central-Houghton match-up comes to fruition, it might just be THE game of the weekend at Compuware.

 

This sets up a fantastic final game between two of the hottest teams in the state with the Cranes and the Rangers. Coach Kevin Zaschak has done a tremendous job this season at Central, but I feel it will be another title for Cranbrook Kingswood coach Andy Weidenbach and the Cranes.

 

So there you have it. Three divisions, and we predict it will be three champions from the Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League. See you at the rink.